Tips for finding reliable support for your next group trip on public transport
If your job involves organising disability day programs, you’ll want to know what support is available to ensure a safe and successful outing. With a little forward planning, you and your group will enjoy a smooth and memorable day out.
- Benefits of supported day programs
- Plan your day group adventure
- Know your group’s needs
- Make the most of Melbourne’s public transport network
- Plan ahead for comfort stops
- What are your goals for the day?
- Reliable service hubs for rest and support
- Support for older visitors to the city
- Know your disability day group supports for a great day out
Benefits of supported day programs
Supported group trips give people the chance to enjoy their community and have experiences they might otherwise miss. Disability day programs also provide real-world learning amid fun and companionship.
As well as being a whole lot of fun, outings and day programs deliver loads of benefits to participants. With the social isolation of COVID-19 fresh in the minds of Victorians having support to come into town can help older people and those with disability feel safer and more comfortable. For older people, a trip into town can:
- Reduce social isolation
- Rekindle memories
- Provide a change in day-to-day routines
- Offer new experiences
- Support independence and autonomy
- Maintain community connections.
For people with higher support needs, disability day programs can:
- Build independence
- Offer opportunities to practice life skills
- Familiarise young people with the city
- Get people used to public transport
- Build social connections
- Provide new experiences.
Plan your day group adventure
Traveller’s Aid program officer Jodie Bateman says Melbourne is a terrific destination for a supported group trip.
“There are so many activities around the CBD that are accessible, and if people didn’t have the support staff bringing them in, they wouldn’t have an opportunity to go out and see them,” Jodie says.
Melbourne offers plenty of interesting things to do any time of the year. It’s also regarded as one of the world’s most accessible cities.
Many of the city’s attractions and events, such as the Melbourne Museum, Melbourne Zoo and the Shrine of Remembrance, keep accessibility front of mind and provide information on their websites. This makes it easier for you to plan your trip so that every member of your group can enjoy the experience.
Know your group’s needs
Supported day group coordinators say the number one tip for a successful trip is to understand the individual needs of participants. Once you are clear on what each person requires for a safe and comfortable trip, you can better prepare.
Phil Robertson lives at Rushall Park Retirement Village, where he also organises activities and outings for fellow residents.
He says that without considering the needs of the whole group and planning ahead, some residents would miss out.
“Some people are less mobile than others and can’t get out as much. But they’re the ones who are probably most in need of a day out,” Phil says.
“It’s important to look at how we can include them in trips, do it in safety, and make sure that people enjoy their day.”
When COVID-19 restrictions eased in 2022, Phil had an idea for a trip to Portarlington via Port Phillip Ferries. He needed to work out logistics for a group of 20 residents, about six of whom had difficulty walking. The trip involved catching the train from their village to Southern Cross Station. They then had to get from the station to Docklands to catch the ferry.
Once Port Phillip Ferries told him about Travellers Aid’s connection services Phil could join the dots. Travellers Aid staff met the group when their train arrived. They then provided free wheelchair and Triobike connection to the ferry dock.
Phil says two Travellers Aid team members even accompanied them on the ferry to assist with their connections at Portalington.
“Using Travellers Aid was a really special thing for us. We couldn’t have done it without them,” Phil says.
“Those people who have difficulty getting about would have missed out.”
Make the most of Melbourne’s public transport network
Do any members of your group use a wheelchair or mobility scooter? Are they able to step up onto a high floor tram?
Knowing how to navigate public transport with disability will add to your group’s smooth experience. There is a host of online resources and apps you can use to visualise and plan out your trip using public transport. You can even get notifications of public transport disruptions or delays sent straight to your phone to minimise unexpected events for your group.
Travellers Aid has online resources, including visual stories, to help you prepare participants for their public transport trip.
If members of your group find walking difficult, a buggy connection service at Southern Cross can collect them from their platform and help navigate the train station. While the service is free, it’s best to book ahead so someone is ready to meet your group when you arrive.
Public transport means you don’t have to worry about driving or parking, and can sit back and enjoy the trip along with your day program group.
And with public transport fares now capped for travel throughout Victoria, a day in town is even more affordable. Check out the PTV website for more information on concessions and travel passes that might apply to your group members or accompanying carers.
Plan ahead for comfort stops
Before bringing a disability day program group into the CBD, take time to learn where the best rest stops are along your journey.
The City of Melbourne has an interactive CBD mobility map, which you can filter for details such as accessible toilets, mobility device charging points, public seating and drinking fountains.
Another place to check is the directory of Changing Places. These are free, accessible toilet facilities built to meet diverse needs. All have a ceiling track hoist system, are larger than most accessible toilets, and have a height-adjustable adult-sized change table, a privacy screen and automatic doors. There are about 10 Changing Places within two kilometres of Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations. The website and app provide specific opening times and access information, so it is well worth checking out where they sit along your planned route.
Travellers Aid also has accessible toilets with ceiling hoists and adult change tables at its Southern Cross and Flinders Street service hubs.
What are your goals for the day?
Is this a social day group outing? Are you coming in for a special event? Perhaps you have a young client about to finish school and you’re helping them get familiar with Melbourne.
If members of your disability day program group have an NDIS plan, you might also be looking for ways to work towards their plan goals.
Jodie Bateman says supported group trips into Melbourne are an ideal way to combine fun with learning.
“If people are moving into travelling independently, it’s a good way to make sure they know how public transport ticketing systems work, safety on train platforms, and how to get on and off transport,” she says.
“So it might just seem like a trip to go the IMAX or something, but at the same time group members are learning how to travel safely, as well as having a fun activity and feeling comfortable among their friends.”
Reliable service hubs for rest and support
One of Melbourne’s best kept secrets is the free support available at Travellers Aid’s Flinders Street and Southern Cross station service hubs. The hubs offer a quiet space amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy stations. Staff and volunteers are on hand to provide information and to assist with any travel-related difficulties.
Both Flinders Street and Southern Cross station service hubs offer well-maintained accessible bathrooms, a quiet lounge, and helpful, friendly staff. Luggage storage is also available at the Flinders Street Station hub. The facilities are available free to anyone who wishes to use them.
The Southern Cross hub also offers a free buggy connection service that can meet you at your platform and get you to the main concourse or your connecting service. It’s best to call or email at least 24 hours in advance book ahead so someone is available to meet your group.
The Flinders Street service hub is well set up for disability day program groups with higher support needs. Qualified staff are on hand seven days a week to provide extra help for support workers travelling with groups.
While you do need to remain with your group and be responsible for their needs at all times, Travellers Aid staff at the Flinders Street service hub can help with heating meals, using the accessible bathroom, and feeding.
The venue is large enough for groups and is set up with tables and chairs, making it an ideal meeting place to bring your lunch or just chill out for a while.
Emergency supplies are available for life’s little accidents, but staff suggest you bring everything needed for the comfort, hygiene and safety of people in your care. That includes gloves, towels, urine bottles, and slings for the ceiling hoist.
“Coming into the city on public transport takes a lot of coordination, so it’s a bit of a relief for group leaders or support workers when they get off the train to know there’s somewhere they can come that’s calm and quiet,” Jodie says.
“We offer them that little bit of extra support.”
When you’re planning out your trip, these service hubs are a handy bookends to your day. Stop in for a rest, a snack, and toilet break before setting off for your destination, and drop in again before heading home.
Support for older visitors to the city
Melbourne has a calendar of regular events specially geared to older visitors.
Visit the Seniors Online website to discover how to make the most of Seniors Card discounts while in town. The site also has information about the annual Seniors Festival. Held in October each year, the festival has plenty of free or low cost activities to get involved in. Public transport is also free for Seniors Card holders throughout the festival.
Jodie Bateman says older people like to use Travellers Aid’s service hubs, knowing they are a safe and quiet place to wait, offer luggage storage, and have clean and accessible bathrooms. She says the free buggy connection service is also popular with older people.
Phil Roberston says that since discovering the service he has used it to connect from metropolitan trains to a regional service. This made a trip from Melbourne to Ballarat more accessible for him and his Rushall Park travel companions.
Travellers Aid also provides a free companion service with trained volunteers accompanying people to appointments or events.
Know your disability day group supports for a great day out
Planning group trips for older travellers or disability day programs means considering the specific interests and support needs of all participants.
Bringing a group into the city can seem like a big logistical task, but the rewards are huge.
Get ready for new experiences, fun, companionship and happy memories. The time you take to plan a well-supported outing will make Melbourne even more accessible and inclusive to those who might otherwise miss out.
With the free and low cost supports available to you and your group there’s no reason to put off a trip into Melbourne’s CBD.
Had a great supported day group experience in Melbourne?
We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Or, if you know someone who might find this information useful, please share it.